Nick's Council Connection (12May2014)

Council Meeting Date: May 12, 2014CFPL.JPG

Council Meeting Location: City Hall, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613

We have a brief Committee meeting where we interview candidates for the Library Board and review bills & payroll. I cover a couple interest items in my Briefs - animal control and local regulations. Let me know what you think!

- Committee of the Whole (6:25pm, Mayor's Conference Room, ELECTRONIC AGENDA)-

In Committee, we interview the following for Library Board of Trustees positions: Paul Gray, Cynthia K. Snell, Dave Deaver and Rick Traw. While the city maintains budget authority, the Library Board operates as a semi-autonomous entity directing everything from facility management to programming. The CFPL has continually evolved to provide relevant, stimulating experiences in support of their mission for all ages. A special thanks to Director Sheryl McGovern, staff, Trustees and Friends... our library is a remarkable community asset. If you haven't visited lately, here's the website, CFPL, or better, experience it in person.

-Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA)-

Old Business - Resolution Calendar 

carboot.jpgF.2) This Ordinance replaces current vehicle impoundment (towing) with one that adds vehicle immobilization as an alternative to impoundment. The 'boot' option should reduce the administrative burdens of impoundment (i.e. unnecessary involvement of 3rd-party wreckers) and result in more expedient collection of fines. Impoundment always remains an option, even after immobilization, should the situation call for it.

New Business - Resolution Calendar 

G.2.i) We review and accept the jurisdiction transfer agreement for University Avenue from the State of Iowa. This represents a long negotiation and a key milestone to put the reconstruction in the city's hands - seemingly the only way to move the process forward. The state is offering $20 million to absolve themselves of the responsibility. The question, is this an equitable transfer? Review will take me into the night as I study the transfer details.

G.9) This item amends the tipping fee for certain construction and demolition materials at the city's transfer station (C&D). shingles.jpgOrdinarily, the tipping fee is $59.15/ton + $10 service fee. A new rate of $30/ton will apply if the load consists of cleaned roofing materials (only shingles, nails and paper). This creates a contractor incentive to divert recyclable materials which have raw material and landfill diversion value. Shingle recycling has become viable as the price of virgin asphalt has increased. The shingle, consisting of asphalt, granules and fiber, can be included in hot asphalt mix plants or further processed into fractions through advanced solvent extraction processes.  

I also reviewed contract costs for Norse Drive public improvements, the permeable paver project, and bio-retention cells maintenance. I will request further clarification from staff about how to contain or reduce expenses related to these improvements.

-Nick's Briefs-

Beyond Benign - Local Regulations and Business - click this link for my insights on how local regulation impacts business and LocalRedTape.jpgjob creation. Most ordinances are justified as necessary for the health, safety and welfare of our city or citizens. While the intentions are virtuous, the effectiveness, fairness and unintentional consequences are rarely evaluated. As the world evolves, our code quickly becomes obsolete. This obsolescence stagnates our local economic engine and job creation. For an interesting read on the local food movement and the negative impact of regulation, I invite you to read Everything I Want to do Is Illegal. From time to time, you'll see me try to amend misguided city code. The latest example is our sidewalk cafe ordinance that needs desperate intervention.

Animal Control - I've had several inquiries about contracting animal control services with Waterloo. I appreciate the concerns because change requires justification. Chief Olson conducted a thorough evaluation of options based on cost and service objectives. For service, the city needs to uphold its code of ordinances to retrieve animals on the loose, mitigate nuisances (vicious animals) and remove dead creatures including deer. For cost, the Waterloo/CBHS arrangement should save CF taxpayers more than $30K/yr, we also receive 24-hour service, versus 8 today. The Cedar Bend Humane Society will continue to serve as the primary agency for rescue, adoption and education, the agency's strength.

When Waterloo animal control retrieves an animal, they perform an animal assessment and make every reasonable effort to contact owner so they can collect their pets while the city collects fines (in a loose or nuisance animal situation). If no owner is located (CF does have mandatory licensing/microchipping, unification of 'legal' animals should not be an issue), then animal control staff evaluates for adoptability (including evaluation of temperament and health). If adoptable, they will refer it to CBHS for rescue.

This is a good example of metro cooperation. CF reduces the risks of police officer injury, we save about $30,000/year, and our citizens get 24-hour animal control service. Total operational costs should decrease as they are absorbed over a larger coverage area - Cedar Falls-Waterloo. This is how metro cooperation should work, I compliment all involved.

Government Funded Funerals Follow-up - There's been a lot of chatter about my letter to the editor challenging recent state appropriations to fund funerals. There is no denying that great need exists in society today. The political question will always be to what extent should government be relied upon to meet all the needs? I admire and support the work of Sing Me to Heaven Foundation. I hope my letter to the editor and resulting discussion has helped spread the word about the organization's good work including voluntary donations. The role of government, however, is still up for debate.

A couple interesting facts. It costs more to die that to be born. According to the Iowa Funeral Home Director's association, the cost of a traditional funeral is $11,566. Costs varies widely, but the variance is driven by the funeral home charges because other charges are more or less fixed (grave open/closings, death certificate, obituary, etc.). An Iowa vaginal birth and mother/newborn care costs about $9,500. I don't think it should cost more to die than to be born.

While many people will ask, "how are we going to pay for that?" I ask, "why does it cost so much?" The funeral industry is highly regulated, price controlled, and a few suppliers hold a staggering monopoly (Wilbert Vault and Batesville casket to name a few). We, meaning everyone in need of funeral services, would be better served if government would review regulatory impacts on funeral costs. Ordinarily, regulations benefit those that are being regulated (because they write the rules!). Government may very well be the origin of the current problem (cost of funerals), and now they want to be the solution. See my post on Local Regulations for another example of regulation's stifling impacts on innovation.
Some politicians suggest this isn't a direct appropriation, which is disingenuous. The last time I read the amendment (I have a day job and can not follow every state bill to its signature or defeat), it stated that only 501(c)3 non-profits in Iowa cities with a population between 2,283 - 2,320 that have been providing funeral-related assistance since July 2011 qualify for the grants. Maybe it isn't a direct appropriation but it sure walks and quacks like a duck.

So I maintain my position. The SMTHF is a great organization that will surely help the less fortunate. But government funded funerals are a bad idea. Many resources exist to assist those in need that have lost a loved one - family, church, businesses, community, etc.. Perhaps more importantly, this appropriation creates an undeniable conflict where government funds, either whole or in part, a religious ritual.

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